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Drawing with Pastels

Drawing with PastelsThe Nature of Soft Pastels
Pastes are very soft in texture, and can be easily blended, either with a finger or a cotton ball. They come in a huge range of vibrant, strong colors and are water-soluble. Pastels are ideal for creating quick, Impressionist-style work, and they are used for both drawing and coloring. It is possible to use the length of the pastel to make broad slabs of color, or a sharp corner to draw, as you would with a pencil. The technique does create a lot of pastel dust, and finished pictures benefit from being sprayed with fixative to seal them. Choice of paper is an integral part of pastel technique. Textured and colored papers will add interest to your work.

Preparation
Pastels create a lot of dust, so it is best to wear old clothes and cover your work-place with a plastic or disposable tablecloth. Ideally your paper should be taped onto a drawing board, which can then be angled to suit your posture. It is a good idea to have a jar of water, a watercolor brush and perhaps a knife for scraping the pastels, though none of these are essential. If you are indoors, make sure you have enough natural light.

Basic Exercises
Before you begin a picture it is best to practice a few basic exercises. A pastel stick is a very simple drawing too, yet it is amazingly versatile. Color can be applied in broad slabs by using the length of the stick, or in delicate thin strokes with the tip or corner of the stick. Colors can be blended using a finger or cotton ball, or you can apply one color over the top of another to create texture. Practice mixing and blending colors, and also try to achieve gradations of color, from a very pale tint to the full strength that a pastel stick is capable of. Pastels are compatible with watercolors, and can be diluted with water to create washes. A stick can be scraped with a knife to create pastel dust, which can be applied to a picture using a finger as an alternative method of creating a wash. Color can be removed with a soft eraser, to rectify mistakes or create highlights. One of the most attractive qualities of pastel drawing is the ease with which colors can be blended. Once you are familiar with the way your pastels perform, the next stage is to begin a composition. Hampton Photo Arts

Composition
Choosing subject matter is a very personal thing. If you are inexperienced, avoid complex compositions. You will become frustrated and abandon the picture. It is better to tackle a simple scene and do it well. Before committing yourself to paper, consider the scene from different angles and distances until you settle on the best view point. Work out which section of the scene you are going to draw and sketch out the basic lines of the composition with the tip of your pastel. You can use one pale color to this or change colors according to what you are drawing. i.e. a blue outline for a blue book, a yellow outline for the lemon, etc. Alternatively, you can use a normal graphite pencil. Do not concern yourself with too much detail at this stage. Correct any mistakes with a soft putty eraser to avoid scuffing the paper surface.

Finishing Touches
Pastels are very powdery by nature, and it is best to use a fixative spray on them, once finished, to seal the work. Traditionally they are framed under glass, with a bevel-cut mount card. This prevents the delicate surface of the pastel picture from touching the glass. Most professional artists allow a margin around their work, rather than drawing straight to the edge. This space is useful for testing colors prior to drawing and also helps the framer to site the mount.

Care of Equipment
Pastels are very easy to look after. Simply keep them in their protective box, and avoid dropping them, as they break very easily.

Drawing with Pastels
Information courtesy of Reeves™

 

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